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Upon arrival in Moscow you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Afternoon is at leisure to get acclimated. If you wish, you can take a short stroll to Red Square. Once a large open-air market, Red Square is now the heart of Russian political life. G.U.M. (the largest Russian department store) has come back to life and is once again one of the leading retail centers of the city.
This morning you will leave Moscow behind and depart to the magnificent cities of the “Golden Ring”- the “Mesopotamia” of Russian civilization.
Your first stop today will be Sergeiev Posad (formerly Zagorsk): the capital of the Russian Orthodox Church. This fortress is the foundation of the Russian Orthodox Church and contains some of the most beautiful churches and buildings in Russia. It is a working monastery that houses the oldest and most prestigious schools for priests and icon painting.
You will have the opportunity to see how Russians live outside of the city as you travel through typical Russian villages on the way to Sergeiev Posad, approximately 1.5 hour’s drive from Moscow. Upon arrival, you will see some of the most spectacular cathedrals in Russia, especially the Trinity St. Sergius Monastery. This monastery has been the single most important spiritual center in Russia for well over 600 years. Your Exeter guide will arrange for a local monastery guide to show you inside any cathedrals you may wish to see. Two, the Assumption Cathedral and the Refectory with St. Sergius Church, are usually closed to the public, so you will get a glimpse into these extraordinary cathedrals.
Later you will drive north of Moscow into the countryside, through the towns of Zagorsk and Pereslavl. Your first stop today will be the ancient fairy tale town of Rostov. With its classic Russian kremlin (fortress), abundant gold domes and silver spires, Rostov’s beauty dazzles its visitors. Be sure to see the art form that is the trademark of the city- exquisite enamel work. You may stop at one of Rostov’s small cafes for lunch (cost of lunch is not included).
Next you will come to tonight’s destination, Yaroslavl. Famous for its ornate frescoes and ornamentation, you will understand why some call Yaroslavl the “Florence of Russia.” After a brief break at your hotel to freshen up, your guide will take you on a walk through this charming town situated at the confluence of the Volga and Kotorosl rivers. Your guide will take you to visit the 17th Century Spassky Monastery, the highlight of the city.
Overnight in Yaroslavl.
Special Note: Your timing, while traveling in the Golden Ring is very fluid. Your guide will discuss the times for departure and touring on a daily basis.
This morning explore Yaroslavl with your guide.
Later today continue your journey with a drive to the quaint town of Kostroma. Don’t miss the Ipatiev Monastery, which served as a refuge for Russian nobility during the Tatar invasions.
Today continue your journey to Russia’s heartland with a visit to the artist colony of Plyos, located two to three hours by car from Suzdal. This charming village is located on the Volga River and features 19th century cottages and a serene atmosphere.
For the next three nights, you will be staying in one of the most unique hotels in Russia. Your accommodation will be a private, historic home in the village with the full services of a hotel. Breakfast will be brought into your home in the morning, so you can enjoy the day at a leisurely pace and explore on foot the entire village, all just steps from your “home.” Staying in the guesthouse is like taking a step back in time, to a simpler Russia.
Today explore Plyos with your guide.
If you like, you can visit the house-museum of the landscape painter Isaac Levitan. Levitan was a resident of Plyos and many of his paintings were inspired by the stunning, quintessential landscape of the Volga as it runs through Pylos. You may also visit Cathedral Hill for a magnificent view of the Volga and town. If you appreciate traditional Russian crafts, you may want to visit the Handicraft Industries museum, featuring jewelry, linen, miniature lacquer painting and embroidery.
Enjoy Plyos at your leisure. If you like, you could take a drive to Palekh, located just under two hours away. This is the home of Russian lacquer painting and icon painting.
Today continue with a drive to Suzdal. Nestled along the Kamenka River, Suzdal will charm you with the contours of its landscape, domed churches and classic white-walled monasteries. The total drive will take three to four hours, depending on traffic.
Today you may also visit the Museum of Wooden and Peasant Architecture. Founded in 1960, this open air museum features outstanding examples of Russian country architecture. You will find windmills, a church and several wooden houses – all from different villages in the Vladimir region.
There were once fifteen monasteries and convents in Suzdal, but today only five survive. You may visit any you wish. The most interesting is definitely the Spaso-Yevfimieyev Monastery, whose buildings house a museum. Another interesting visit is the Convent of the Intercession, widely known as a place of lifetime exile for women of aristocratic birth.
If you are interested, end the day with a sampling of homemade Russian mead at the Suzdal Mead Factory. Sold across Russia in small brown bottles, this local factory makes a wide variety of this medieval drink. You may choose to sample as many as you like, all spiced with different flavors, including hops, juniper, pepper and even horseradish.
Today you will venture out to Kovrov, town just outside of Suzdal. You will explore its charming churches and of course the Kremlin.
Later today you will be driven back to Suzdal.
Exeter Extraordinary Experience
Your special dinner this evening will be in a private home in Suzdal – a simple, but traditional Russian meal of natural foods from the dacha garden. Cost of dinner is included in your program.
Today travel outside of Suzdal to explore the town of Yuriev Polsky. The great Battle of Lipitsa was fought near the town in 1216. In 1238, Yuryev was sacked by the Mongols. A century later, it was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The chief monument of the Muscovite period is the walled Monastery of Archangel Michael, originally founded in the 13th century. Several miles from Yuryev, on the bank of the Yakhroma River, stands the Kosmin Cloister, whose structures are typical for the mid-17th century.
Later today you will be driven back to Suzdal.
Depart Suzdal for your journey back to Moscow. Today you will stop in the ancient fairy tale town of Rostov.
En-route you will stop at the beautiful city of Vladimir. Tucked into a green valley and surrounded by forests and lakes, this ancient city was once one of Russia's strongest principalities. Like Suzdal, Vladimir dates to the 12th-century and is considered to be one of the most unique Russian towns in existence. Before there was a Moscow, Vladimir was the seat of power for the entire region.
Later this afternoon arrive in Moscow and transfer to you hotel.
Today you will be met and transferred to the airport to catch your onward flight. Please note this flight is not included in program cost.